It’s a new school year. Do you know where your convictions are?
After a summer of lax schedules and lazy days, educators return to the classroom with high hopes. Perhaps you are like me, and as your body lay calmly on the beach your mind churned with “what ifs” for curriculum and choreography. Today we return, metaphorical pencil boxes filled with big goals and sweet dreams about student behavior, technical achievement, and creative heights.
Tomorrow, when students refuse to leave their anxieties at the door, and parents strategize their disapproval from our lobby couches, those pencil boxes suddenly seem like quaint artifacts. Facing pressures both online and in our faces, we often find ourselves on the defensive, slipping back into past behaviors we vowed to change. Little nitpicks—a complaint here, a whisper there—grow into monsters in our minds, crowding out those ambitious summer daydreams.
This is no way to do our best work. This is no way to serve our students. This is no way to live our lives.
Might I offer a small suggestion? Stop apologizing.
In many cases, I’m all for apologizing. Someone bumps my cart in a grocery store, and despite fault, I immediately say, “Sorry!” It’s polite, it’s quick, and most important, it avoids an argument when all I want to do is get home with the ice cream before it melts.
I’m not talking about expressing your regret for a misspelled name in a program or a math error on a bill. In those cases, sorrys are certainly in order. I’m talking about when we’re backed into a corner and forced to apologize for doing what we know is right, or for doing our job.
So I came up with what I’m calling the Dance Educators’ Articles of Faith—or, if you will, DEAF. (Read into that what you will . . .)
Subhed: The Dance Educators’ Articles of Faith
As studio owners, we have every right to make a profit off our business. Come up with a polite, firm answer, and use it every time a parent demands to know your markup or questions a charge. Be fair—but don’t apologize.
As teachers, we build our lessons from years of education and experience. So certainly, when asked a question, explain and educate. But don’t feel forced to justify your position to someone who’s really just looking for an argument or a concession. Be strong—don’t apologize.
As authority figures, we design rules and set expectations that will allow us to provide the best education we can in an environment conducive to learning. There will always be people who don’t want to follow those rules or who defy those expectations. Beware—but don’t apologize.
As artists, we understand the path to creation is rough and uncertain. Visions don’t come with how-to instructions, and trying something new or ambitious takes courage. Dare and dream—don’t apologize.
As professionals, we provide a service that enriches the lives of children, and adds art and beauty to our communities. Others may judge our success based only upon the technical perfection of our students—we know that view is shortsighted and uninformed. Don’t accept that criticism and don’t apologize. Ever.
As compassionate, nurturing human beings, the well-being of our students is never far from our thoughts. This will often cause us to care too long, to sacrifice too much, to hold on too tight. Bandage your broken heart—but don’t apologize.
When I stopped apologizing and started trusting myself, everything changed. With faith in my abilities and healthy self-respect, I was not only a better teacher and employee, but could consider complaints with clarity and objectivity instead of ego and anger. And for that, I will never be sorry.
DSL editor in chief Karen White, a former newspaper reporter and freelance writer, has taught dance in private studios and choreographed musicals since age 17 and has no plans to stop.